The Eagle County Sheriff’s office will send deputies to the start of school Monday amid mounting tension over the school district’s newly-announced mask mandate for elementary and middle schools.
The deputies will aim to “keep the peace” as students return to class, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Amber Barrett said Sunday, adding that the increased law enforcement presence is intended as a preventative measure.
“The tensions have just been really high over the weekend since the school board announced they’d be requiring masks,” she said. “There’s been quite a lot of chatter on social media, everything from trying to implement a walk-out to meeting up to in a specific location to gather and voice their opinions. We don’t have any threats of violence or anything of that nature.”
Eagle County School District on Friday announced that students, teachers, staff and visitors at the district’s elementary and middle schools would be required to wear masks when classes begin Monday.
Superintendent Philip Qualman said in a statement that the last-minute change was made because of rising cases of COVID-19 in the county, and said a mask mandate allows schools to continue to give in-person instruction five days a week.
|RESOURCE||List of Denver-area school mask requirements|
“Some may not agree with this change and may with to express their feelings publicly,” a school district news release read. “The district asks that protests be directed at locations other than schools. It is imperative that schools begin on Monday without disruption or additional emotional stress on students and staff.”
Qualman did not immediately return a request for comment Sunday. Matthew Miano, school district spokesman, said in an email that officials were declining interviews Sunday and aiming “to try and keep this issue apolitical and support the safety of our students and our staff.”
Barrett said deputies don’t plan on policing mask wearing at the schools Monday, but rather will be focused on ensuring school business goes on unimpeded. She said the sheriff’s office will aim to have at least one deputy at most of the middle and elementary schools and expects some parents will show up with signs to protest.
“As long as they’re not interfering with the day-to-day activities with parents, teachers and staff getting in and out of the building, as long as they’re not disrupting school functions, it shouldn’t be a big deal,” Barrett said. “People are allowed to voice their opinions. They just cannot be impeding traffic or the flow in and out of the school.”
The Front Range has seen a handful of protests over school mask mandates they’ve been announced across the region. Earlier this month, about 300 parents protested Jeffco Public Schools’ decision to require masks for students ages 3 to 11.
Mask mandates have also been announced at Cherry Creek School District, Adams 12 Five Star Schools, Aurora Public Schools, Boulder Valley School District and Denver Public Schools, among others.
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